SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sept. 11, 2001, was setting up to be a day that students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, would never forget.
That morning, then-President George W. Bush was coming to their school. But in a whisper, his visit was cut short and innocence lost.
The second-graders had no way of knowing they were about to become part of history. Lazarus Dubrocq was just 7 years old when he met Bush, after the Commander in Chief came to his reading class.
“Before we started reading to him, we actually had a conversation with him,” Dubrocq said. Bush was in a good mood, Dubrocq remembers, talking about his daughters and his two dogs at the White House.
Dubrocq, now an engineer living in Texas, says he sensed a change in the room after the president’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered in the president’s ear.
“We were reading along and in the middle of our reading session, it was Mr. Card who came in through the side and ended up notifying the president of the attack,” Dubrocq said.
It was a Tuesday morning. Terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and attempted to crash a plane into the White House. Dubrocq said the teachers did their best to shield the students from the information that began to disrupt the reading class. Bush also did his best to protect the students from the media who began asking questions.
“Mr. President, are you aware of the report of a plane crash in New York?” asked one reporter.
“We’ll talk about that later,” he said.
Even as a boy, Lazarus sensed the gravity of the situation. He wondered if his school be next.
“The president was at our school, right? So, what better target than where the president was at?“ Dubrocq said.
Minutes later, Bush was on television addressing the nation.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks,” Bush said in his address from the school. Shortly afterward, he asked the nation to join him in a moment of silence.
“May God bless the victims, their families, and America,” the president said.
Lazarus says it took time to comprehend what happened. He remembers his young self, his happy routine going to and from school, until Sept. 11 when his innocence was shattered.
“For most of my daily life, that was my world. And then that one day comes in and you are made aware. Not only is America possibly being dragged into a war. It’s a war on our soil. And that is hard to fully comprehend as a child at the age of 7 but more appreciated as you become older,” said Dubrocq.
Every year on the anniversary of the attacks, Lazarus Dubrocq reflects on that horrific day. Twenty years later, he knows it has forever changed him. He hopes for the better. Dubrocq said he doesn’t feel proud to be part of a day that ended the lives of thousands of Americans.
“But I can take away lessons. Even if it’s the slightest silver lining to that day. What can I do for myself to improve the lives of those around me and the lives of those I care about,” Dubrocq said.